Liane Wells has nailed the art of cooking on a budget, and she wants to help you do the same (Picture: PA Real Life)
Planning to get into batch cooking?
Follow the lead of thrifty retail worker Liane Wells, who’s mastered the art of cooking on a budget.
Liane, 32, got into seeking out cut-price produce when she and her husband Ashley, 34, moved to a house near a retail park in Biggleswaide, Bedfordshire, four years ago, and suddenly had a large supermarket on their doorstep.
She learned how to time her shopping trips perfectly for snapping up yellow sticker stock, heading along to the supermarket at 5.30pm to get the best bargains.
Soon the couple were living entirely on cut-price produce – though Liane has slipped in the odd non-reduced item since she started batch cooking a few months ago.
Now, she’s so skilled in sticking to a budget that she regularly batch cooks 14 portions of delicious food – so two weeks’ worth of dinners – for under a fiver.
Liane said: ‘I used to live off yellow sticker cooking and would pay absolute peanuts for things.
Liane used to rely entirely on reduced price yellow sticker items, but now mixes it up (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)
‘My freezer was full of chicken I’d picked up for 50p and lunch would be reduced sandwiches I’d got for just 20p.
‘Now I’m working longer hours, I batch cook more, but it’s been a life-saver. It’s such an inexpensive, easy way to eat. I’ll make 10 to 14 portions of a curry, chilli or stew for around £4 to £5.’
Liane has learned plenty of tips and tricks for cooking on a budget and finding a bargain from groups online.
‘I learnt so much through other people,’ she said. ‘I’m not the chattiest person online, but everybody was lovely and friendly.
‘I found out that supermarkets reduce their stock at different times. Some do it first thing, while others leave it to the end of the day when they have more of an idea of what will and won’t sell.
‘It’s a bit of a fine art and took a fair bit of hanging around different shops to see what was going on – supermarket stalking, as I called it – but I soon worked it all out.’
She keeps her food bills low by batch cooking budget-friendly meals in advance (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)
According to eagle-eyed shoppers on MoneySaving Expert forums, most Asda stores put out their final reductions at 9pm, while Aldi and Co-op do so at 8pm and Sainsbury’s at 7pm.
Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco start much earlier, slashing prices from the morning onwards – although the larger discounts materialise later on.
‘Of course, it all depends on the closing time of your local store and what their managers choose to do,’ explained Liane.
‘That’s why it’s good to do a bit of research, so you aren’t wasting a trip to the supermarket.’
Since changing jobs to a role with longer hours this summer, Liane has relied less on yellow sticker bargains and more on batch cooking to keep costs down.
Two of Liane’s recipes:
Bolognese – £6.79 for 14 portions
- Beef mince 2 x 20% fat beef 500g £2.98
- Whole bag frozen mixed veg 69p
- Chopped onion 1/4 bag 20p
- 2 x passata 64p
- Whole bag of pasta 45p
- Mixed herbs
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce
- Block of cheese grated at home £1.79
Cottage pie £7.04 for 10 portions
- Beef mince £2.98
- Onions 35p
- Bag of carrots 1kg 41p
- Peas 1/2 bag 30p
- Beef stock x 2 35p
- Few gravy granules to thicken
- Potatoes 2.5 kg 99p
- Block of butter £1.49
- Whole grain mustard 1/2 jar 17p
Timing her shops carefully, she still picks up reduced stock – only paying full price when she absolutely must – then rustles up a recipe to see her through the next fortnight.
Her favourite dishes are chilli con carne, bolognese, chicken curry and cottage pie with mustard mash.
Two weeks’ worth of dinners often costs under a fiver (Picture: PA Real Life)
While some recipes cost her £6 to £7, from others she can make 14 portions for less than a fiver.
Some of her greatest triumphs include picking up 1kg of mince for £3.50 and a family-sized lasagne for just 60p.
A fringe benefit of her thrifty shopping habits has been shrinking her waistline alongside her food bills.
She said: ‘Like many of us, I did put on a bit of weight in lockdown, being stuck at home.
‘I’m the kind of person that if I shop every day and make a new recipe each night, I’ll likely overload my portion size without even meaning to. But batch cooking means everything is measured out.
Liane is also keen to reduce food waste (Picture: PA Real Life)
‘I’ll use meat that I’ve picked up cheaply and frozen and then bulk it out with whatever vegetables I can find.
‘So much of it is given away for next to nothing purely because of its sell-by date, and while I wouldn’t gamble with something that could give me food poisoning, like dairy, you can get a bit more life out of most fruit and veg.
‘I’ll just cut away the bits that are a little worse for wear and use everything else.
‘I take most of my fresh produce out of the packaging, so instead of relying on sell by dates, I use my senses, asking myself if it looks and smells right.”
Although her precise weekly food bill depends on what bargains she has bagged, it is usually around £25 to £30 – less than half the UK average which, according to recent figures from the Office of National Statistics, is £61.90 for a household of 2.4 people, without alcohol or restaurant bills.
‘Sometimes we’ll spend more if we’re treating ourselves. I work to quite a strict budget,’ she said.
She encourages everyone to get into hunting out cut-price produce and cooking in bulk (Picture: PA Real Life)
‘I know some people get their shops cheaper, but Ashley and I are foodies.’
Liane wants to encourage more people to hunt out bargains and try batch cooking, which she hopes will help cut down on food waste.
She said: ‘The amount of perfectly good produce that’s thrown away every single day is really sad.
‘I wish supermarkets could at least give it away to homeless people or those struggling, so it doesn’t just end up in the bin.
‘There’s a whole community of us online who love bargain cooking and are more than willing to share hints and tips about where to find the latest deal.
‘So, to anyone wanting to get involved, I’d say go for it.’
If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.
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